Legislative Update - Steep Decline in Violent Crime
One of the country’s great success stories since the turn of the century is the steep decline we’ve seen in violent crime.
According to the FBI’s latest findings, which were released last week, the number of these offenses per 100,000 people dropped from 523 in 1999 to 368.9 last year. When just looking at raw numbers, there were almost 220,000 fewer violent offenses in the U.S. in 2018 than there were two decades ago, a fact that becomes more impressive when considering that we have about 50 million more people now.
This good news is even better for Kentucky, which historically has had one of the lowest violent-crime rates among the states. Our rate last year – 211.9 offenses per 100,000 people – was not only well below the national average; it was also lower than all surrounding states but Virginia. In fact, Kentucky’s rate was almost two-thirds below Tennessee’s.
A similar report that Kentucky State Police releases each summer paints a more detailed picture of what it calls serious crimes, which range from animal cruelty and arson to stolen property and weapons violations.
Here, too, we’re seeing positive trends, with these offenses collectively dropping 2.28 percent last year when compared with 2017. On average, a serious offense occurs about every two minutes in Kentucky. Property crimes, not surprisingly, greatly outnumber violent ones, yet they’re harder to solve; only a fourth lead to charges, verses about half for violent offenses.
The KSP report puts a concrete number on what most property crimes cost their victims. Burglars, robbers and thieves, for example, stole property totaling more than $400 million last year – a sizeable portion of which was thankfully recovered – and arsonists were responsible for causing $20.2 million more worth of damage.
Some long-term comparisons with previous KSP reports show significant progress in key areas. DUIs have gone from 30,000 a year in the mid-1990s to 23,000 in 2018, and meth labs that exceeded 1,200 in 2011 have been at 99 for two straight years.
On the downside, drug offenses are still inching up – they now make up a fourth of all serious crimes – and emergency protective orders issued in domestic-violence cases were slightly higher last year than in 2017.
It is vital to remember that behind every statistic in these reports is one or more law enforcement officer who is working to catch those at fault and to help those in need. Kentucky has about 8,600 sworn law enforcement officers, and they’re supported by 2,500 civilian employees who work alongside them. We can’t thank them enough.
This work can carry a major price. Four officers tragically lost their lives on duty last year, and a police memorial in Richmond features more than 500 others dating back to the 1800s. Nearly 2,000 officers were assaulted in 2018, half of whom suffered an injury.
The General Assembly has sought to make the job they and other first responders do a little easier. That includes raising their training stipend; improving mental-health services; and increasing benefits for family members of any government worker killed while doing his or her job.
If you would like to look at these crime reports further, they’re easily found online. The FBI study is at FBI.gov, and KSP’s can be read at KentuckyStatePolice.org/crime-traffic-data/. As always, I encourage you to contact me if you have any comments regarding this issue or another affecting Kentucky. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can leave a message for me or any legislator by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
Thanks for all you do!
56th District Representative
Kentucky House of Representatives
P.O. Box 1002
Versailles, KY 40383